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Legal news company ALM and legal research company LexisNexis this week announced an expansion of their content licensing agreement that is good news for LexisNexis subscribers but not so good news for the rest of the legal community.

Since 2011, LexisNexis has had the exclusive license to archived content from all ALM publications, which include The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal, Legaltech News, the Law.com website, and a number of other regional and specialty publications.

Yesterday’s announcement extends this relationship for an unspecified term and also opens opportunities for direct integration of ALM content into LexisNexis legal research products. According to the press release, the way ALM content is delivered through LexisNexis Newsdesk will be streamlined so it is delivered directly from ALM.

Direct integration will also mean that case law references within ALM online publications will link directly to the actual cases in Lexis Advance, according to the release. LexisNexis users will be able to use a single password to access all LexisNexis and ALM content.

All of which is good news if you happen to be a LexisNexis subscriber. However, if you are not, it means that you will be shut out of the archives of the most extensive legal news organization in the country.

Even ALM’s own paid subscribers will not have access to ALM content after it has been online for 180 days. Any legal news reported in an ALM publication will effectively disappear after six months to anyone who is not a LexisNexis subscriber.

According to Lenny Izzo, president of ALM’s Legal Media Division, LexisNexis gets all the ALM content as it is published on ALM’s sites. The content remains available on ALM sites for 180 days, after which only a brief abstract is viewable with a referral link to the full text in LexisNexis. LexisNexis is the exclusive provider for ALM archived content older than 180 days.

This is true even for paid subscribers to ALM products. For example, The American Lawyer’s website offers a one-year subscription at the price of $431.88. If I purchase that subscription, I will have access to past issues up to 180 days. After that, I can no longer access back issues except through LexisNexis. If I am researching an issue and want to check back on a story published a year ago, I am out of luck, even as a paid subscriber. (Of course, I could subscribe to the print edition and keep the back issues in my office. But who does that anymore?)

What I’ve just described is not new. This is essentially the same arrangement as ALM and LexisNexis have had since their 2011 licensing agreement. Still, one could hope that it would change.

I have no doubt that this arrangement is lucrative for ALM. As a former ALM employee, I don’t begrudge the company any opportunity to bring in revenue. I want ALM to survive and thrive so that it can continue to put out some of the best legal journalism available anywhere.

But it bothers me no end when that superb legal journalism effectively disappears to large segments of the legal community because it is hidden behind the LexisNexis paywall.

It is also a loss for the writers who contribute to ALM to have their work effectively disappear off the Web. In my case, I wrote the Web Watch column for Law Technology News for 15 years. Now, when I click on the links that used to lead to those columns, all I get is a “page no longer exists” message. It does not even link into LexisNexis, which is supposed to be the way it works.

Look, I understand paywalls. I represent the newspaper industry in my legal work. But there are ways to structure them that provide general access to older stories while still enabling the publisher to earn revenue. Like many other publishers now do, ALM could offer all its archives online but impose a cap on the number of articles an individual could view in a month.

The other big unknown here is cost. It’s one thing to pay roughly $200 a year to subscribe to a publication such as The New York Times or even $400+ to subscribe to The American Lawyer. It is quite another to have to subscribe to a LexisNexis research service just to get access to news stories.

I asked Izzo what the minimum cost would be for a lawyer to access ALM’s archived oontent on LexisNexis. I wanted to know what level or type of LexisNexis subscription would be required to access ALM’s content and what it would it cost. He replied that he would have to refer that question to LexisNexis and would send them a note and let me know when he hears back.

I also sent that question to LexisNexis and, as of yet, have not received a reply.

Access to news — not just current news, but also historical news — is important for any community. The legal community is no different. ALM and LexisNexis should offer an affordable option for lawyers who want legal news and news archives only, without having to buy everything else that comes with a LexisNexis subscription.

[Disclosure: I long ago worked for ALM and was editor-in-chief of The National Law Journal.]

 

I noted last week that legal publisher ALM — parent to Law.com, The American Lawyer, The National Law Journal, Law Technology News, and other national and regional publications — had announced that it would begin offering free digital memberships, effective Aug. 23. The free memberships would provide “bundled benefits” that would include digital access to five news articles every 30 days from ALM publications and discounts on ALM products and services.

“The announcement leaves me confused about what will be free and what will not,” I wrote then, “and it does not even mention access to archived stories, so we will need to stay tuned and see what happens on Aug. 23.”

Well, now that Aug. 23 has come and gone, I had an opportunity to get more details about the new digital memberships in a phone call today with two of ALM’s senior vice presidents, Lenny Izzo, SVP and chief marketing officer, and Jeffrey Litvak, SVP and chief digital officer.

Now, in most cases when you click on a link to read an article, you are immediately prompted to register for a digital membership. ALM makes it easy to do by allowing you to sign in via your LinkedIn account. If you prefer to register, you need answer only a few brief questions.

If you do not register, then you are severely limited in what you can access on any of the ALM sites. If you do register, then you get access to five free articles every 30 days. Overall, the scope of access is actually broader than it was before, in that ALM is now putting most articles outside the paywall (but within the five-article limit). In the past, some 70-80 percent of the articles were behind paywalls; now, all but premium content will be outside the paywall.

Before making this change, Izzo and Litvak say, ALM studied readership habits and found that 90 percent of its readers looked at fewer than six articles in any 30-day period. Thus, they say, the five-article cap will not limit the reading habits of most users.

Here are some other key points about the new plan:

  • Links can be shared. If you forward an article to a colleague by email, the colleague will be able to read it without registering or even being prompted to register. This is an improvement over the past, where the recipient of a shared article often found it to be locked behind the paywall.
  • Social media links don’t count against the quota. If you follow a link to an ALM article from a social media site such as Twitter or Facebook, the article you read does not count against your five-article limit.
  • Law Technology News and Corporate Counsel are not capped. Once you register for the digital membership for either of these publications, you get full access; you are not capped at five articles.
  • There is no change in access to archives. As before, ALM publications offer access to only six months of archives. Access to older articles is available only through Lexis.

ALM has also made changes to its paid subscription structure. Previously, each of its 14 paid publications had its own subscription structure. Now, the prices have been streamlined into four tiers, each of which has a digital-plus-print and a digital-only price per month:

  • $36.99 for digital and print and $29.99 for digital for premium daily publications including The New York Law Journal and The Legal Intelligencer.
  • $34.99 for digital plus print and $29.99 for digital only for The American Lawyer and The National Law Journal.
  • $29.99 for digital plus print and $24.99 for digital for publications such as The Recorder in San Franciso and the Daily Business Review in Florida.
  • $24.99 for digital and print and $19.99 for digital only for publications such as The Connecticut Law Tribute and Texas Lawyer.

Paid subscribers to any any one publication are able to purchase subscriptions to other publications at discounted rates.

 

A few days off the grid and I return to several notable announcements from companies that cater to lawyers:

A business development platform launched. Yesterday, Thomson Reuters Elite announced the release of Business Development Premier, a platform for customer relationship management and business development. In keeping with TR’s recent focus on “integrated” products, this platform is described as combining CRM and enterprise relationship management capabilities with company data from TR, competitive intelligence from Monitor Suite, and campaign management functionality. This integration of products and data, says the press release, will “reduce the amount of time spent on data aggregation and tactical execution within law firms, enabling users to concentrate on developing and executing their marketing and business development strategy.” I have not seen this yet but expect to be able to review it within the next few weeks.

And a business development platform sold. Even as Thomson Reuters was launching Business Development Premier, it was selling off another business-development and content-management suite, OneView. On Thursday, Handshake Software announced that it had acquired the OneView business, which includes three products — OneView Connect, OneView Search and OneView Extranet — as well as the client contacts associated with those products. The OneView products, all based on Microsoft SharePoint, are legacies of the Hubbard One business that Thomson Reuters sold off last year. The products focused on data sharing, searching and collaboration. The products should fit well with Handshake, which provides SharePoint-based intranets, extranets and document management.

hand screenshotRocket Matter Android app. The cloud-based practice-management platform Rocket Matter has released an app for accessing the platform on Android devices. (It already had an iPhone app.) According to the company’s announcement, the app provides “a streamlined version of the essential features of the flagship cloud-based product.” The app can be used to capture time-and-billing information and to access contact lists, client-matter information, and calendar information. The app is available in the Google Play store.

ALM digital memberships. The legal news and business company ALM (for which I used to work) has announced that, starting Aug. 23, it will begin offering free digital memberships to legal professionals. Registrants will receive what are described as “bundled benefits,” including digital access to five news articles every 30 days from ALM’s legal publications, discounts on ALM products and services, and access to ALM’s news alerts and newsletters. “In conjunction with the launch of these digital memberships,” the announcement said, “ALM will be unlocking news stories that previously were only available to paid subscribers.”

The announcement goes on to say that three ALM publications will remain free for unlimited reading online — Corporate Counsel, Law Technology News and The Asian Lawyer — while content from four “premium” publications — Supreme Court Brief, Litigation Daily, New Jersey Law Journal Decision Alert and Delaware Business Court Insider — will continue to be accessible only to paid subscribers.

The announcement leaves me confused about what will be free and what will not, and it does not even mention access to archived stories, so we will need to stay tuned and see what happens on Aug. 23.

Legal news company ALM today rolled out a set of apps for iPhones and iPads covering 14 of its national and regional publications.

The apps, which can be downloaded from at.law.com/apps, cover the the following publications:

  • The American Lawyer.
  • Corporate Counsel.
  • Law Technology News.
  • The National Law Journal.
  • Connecticut Law Tribune.
  • Daily Business Review.
  • Daily Report Online.
  • Delaware Business Court Insider.
  • Delaware Law Weekly.
  • New Jersey Law Journal.
  • New York Law Journal.
  • Texas Lawyer.
  • The Legal Intelligencer.
  • The Recorder.

A press release issued by ALM today says this:

The apps offer a superior and faster reading experience than what is possible through a smartphone or tablet Web browser. They also provide offline reading capability so users can view news stories and other articles even when they are not connected to the Web.

NLJ appI had a different experience when I tried the app for The National Law Journal. The screenshot at right shows what is supposed to be the “front page.” This is not what you’d expect for a news outlet’s front page. It seems to bear little relation to the stories that appear on the NLJ’s web front page. Further, it lists items out of context, leaving the reader confused. Why, for example, is the name of the law firm Sidley Austin listed there? When I click through to the article, I find it is a profile of the firm, and I have to guess that it has something to do with the recently published NLJ 350. But that is purely a guess on my part — the app offers no context.

This may not be the fault of the app, however. The mobile version of the NLJ web page shows virtually the same front page as the app and is just as confusing.

On top of all that, the app was slow on my iPhone, with pages taking several seconds to load and in one case more than five minutes over a strong 3G connection. And I could find no way to save content for offline reading, although that may be because the app already downloaded it to my device. A “help” page would be helpful here.

The press release goes on to say:

The apps are being sponsored by leading financial and legal institutions who are providing end-users free complimentary access to the content during the launch sponsorship.

That’s a good thing, I guess. It means that some content that might otherwise be behind a paywall is available here thanks to the sponsor. In fact, if you look at the NLJ front page using the iPhone’s Safari browser, several of these stories are locked. If you look at the same stories using the app, they are unlocked.

If you regularly follow any of these ALM publications, its app might prove handy. But given my admittedly brief experience using the NLJ app, I would like to see editorial and navigational enhancements to make it clearer to the reader what stories are about and why they’re there.

Interesting to see, via Romenesko, that Thomson Reuters has hired Eric Effron as editor for law of the new Thomson Reuters Professional News Center. Effron is the former editor and publisher of Legal Times, the former ALM-owned Washington, D.C., legal newspaper that ALM recently folded into its national legal newspaper, The National Law Journal.

Effron was hired by Stephen Adler, the editorial director of Thomson Reuters Professional Division, who was formerly editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer magazine, which is also owned by ALM. Adler left that magazine to join The Wall Street Journal in 1988, well before ALM’s current owners took over. Adler later moved to Business Week, where he was editor-in-chief.

Effron left Legal Times in 1998. He was most recently executive editor of The Week.

London-based Incisive Media announced today its acquisition of ALM from U.S. Equity Partners for $630 million. ALM owns and publishes 33 national and regional magazines and newspapers focused primarily on the legal community, including The American Lawyer, The National Law Journal, Corporate Counsel and Law Technology News. It also owns Law.com. The announcement describes Incisive Media as “a rapidly growing provider of specialist business information, operating in four principal markets: financial services, risk management, professional services and marketing services.” Among the publications it owns is the U.K. legal periodical Legal Week.

At his blog LawBeat, Mark Obbie, former executive editor of The American Lawyer, calls the sale “a journalism plus” given Incisive’s track record of quality legal journalism. I agree. Even more significantly, I think, is that the deal will enable ALM to move towards becoming the global journalism operation it has wanted to be and should be. My understanding is that one reason it changed its name from American Lawyer Media to just ALM was to position itself as a more global company. Although ALM has made various forays into Europe and Asia, it has never seemed able to gain a strong foothold there. This is good for ALM and it is good for ALM’s audience. Increasingly, both the practice of law and the business of law are global enterprises. To cover them well, the news organization also needs to be global.

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